Racquet sports have been popular the world over for many centuries – since the 16th century to be exact. Ever since then, man has had the pleasure, thrill, and joy of hitting a small ball using a racquet, either directly to an opponent or indirectly via a wall, as in the game of squash. People have been playing squash for many years, and the sport has grown tremendously. Although squash is well-established, it started from humble beginnings. So, where did it all begin for his magnificent sport? We delved into history to discover how squash started and developed into what it is today.
The History of Squash (the Sport)
Like most sports born before proper records were kept, the real origin and history of squash are shrouded in a bit of mystery. Before the game was formally recognized, it had its origins in a prison in London (gasp!). According to the story, the prisoners exercised by hitting a ball against the walls using racquets, thus inventing the game of rackets. How the game of rackets wound up in a prestigious school called Harrow (in England), no one knows. But it did, in 1820, and the students loved it so much it became a regular sport in the school. So popular was this new game of rackets that the school constructed some courts specifically for the game.
The first courts Harrow school built were quite dangerous as they were built near buttresses, water pipes, and gutters. Fortunately, new courts were constructed outside the school, making the game safe again. The first squash balls were made from natural rubber until one day the students discovered that a deflated “squashed”, flat racquet ball was more responsive and returned faster than the normal ball. The students inadvertently created squash – a game that would take the world by storm.
That, my friend, was the birth of squash – and the year was 1830. Rackets and squash became two distinct games. The game of squash soon spread like wildfire to other schools and eventually became an international sport that multitudes took seriously. In fact, the game of squash was so popular the RMS Titanic had a squash court constructed in first class. The squash court was situated on G-Deck and the spectators viewing gallery was on the deck above on F-Deck.
The Evolution of Squash
As its popularity grew, the game of squash also grew in more ways than just numbers playing the game. The most notable changes that came to the game were administrative and equipment developments.
The Administrative Changes – Guaranteeing the Future of Squash
As more and more people began showing interest and love for the game of squash, it became evident that a regulatory body was needed to oversee the game and maintain uniformity in play and equipment.
In England, a Squash sub-committee of the Tennis and Rackets Association regulated the sport from 1908 until 1928 when it gained full status as the Squash Rackets Association in 1928. In America, the United States Squash Racquets Association (now called U.S. Squash) was formed in 1907 and was soon followed by the Canadian Squash Racquets Association in 1911. In 1967, the International Squash Racquets Federation (ISRF) to coordinate and promote the sport at an international level. It was later renamed the World Squash Federation, and that is still its name to date.
Evolution of Equipment
Since its birth, the game was played with wooden rackets that were later laminated. Construction material was improved to composite materials in the 1980s to make the racquets much lighter. Natural strings were also improved to synthetic strings, making the racquets more efficient and durable.
The squash ball also went through some changes after its “squashing” incident that birthed the game at Harrow in 1830. In the early history of squash, the size of the ball depended on the size of the court the game was being played on. As the game developed and standardization came in, standard balls were regulated. They too went through various changes (and official manufacturers) until the regulation balls we have today.
From Sport to Fitness Exercise
Today, squash does not just enjoy popularity as a sport. It is fast evolving into one of the most popular exercises too. Because of its great anaerobic and aerobic boosting high-intensity way in which it is played, squash has many health and fitness benefits. For example, playing squash for an hour is known to burn a whopping 1000 calories. That’s a figure many sports can’t brag about. The game of squash is also known for the great way in which it tones the leg muscles. If you are not an expert squash player, don’t be afraid to get started and carry on with the sport, as it will benefit your fitness. With time and practice, your squash skills will also improve, but at the very least, your fitness will get much better.
The Future of Squash
The origins/history of squash are not only colorful and interesting, but I believe in studying the history of squash, we can get a picture of where the sport is headed. The game of squash is evidently not going to fade away soon, it was popular in the past, and it will definitely continue to be popular in the future. As history has shown, the sport has evolved for the better over time. So, one could easily say that squash can only get better with time and advancements in technology. It’s going to be interesting to see how much more squash grows, but one thing is for certain – squash is only going to get bigger and better.